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Everything will be all right
Her lifeless stare bore a hole in me. Even when she wrapped her worn hands around mine, they felt unfamiliar and mechanical. Even when she whispered me that she loved me, it sounded ingenuine and forced. My mother was gone, destroyed by the man-made creation that I thought was supposed to bring her back to life.
I sat by my mother’s bedside at the Regent Hospital after she was taken in again after she tried to hang herself. She was weak, fragile, and ill all the time. After my father’s death working in the factory manufacturing brain chips for the ReAnima Company, she became depressed, not wanting to eat, sleep, or get out of bed. I became the sole provider for my family of 5, but work was hard to find these days. Robos, as we call them, were already functioning as waiters, babysitters, and the other jobs that didn’t require a college degree. I eventually had to settle for a pizza delivery job at the nearby Italian restaurant because that place was the only restaurant that had not adopted machine-driven staff.
After coming into the hospital that day to visit my mother, the Robo nurse came to check me in and led me to room #A37289 where my mother had been a routine patient for the past 3 years. Seeing her in such a frail state, I grimaced and hesitated to walk past the door stop. Go on. Your mother needs you. A voice in my head urged, and I hesitantly stepped forward. My mother moved her head slightly to face the door and squinted her eyes to see who the visitor was. Upon realizing that it was me, she managed to lift her translucent arm, the syringes wobbling as the tubes on her arm shifted in a slight wave. I had not realized that I was crying until a tear droplet rolled down my cheek. I managed to brush it away and stolled forward, reassuring my mother that “everything will be all right.” I sat down on a creaky, wobbly chair next to her bedside, watching her drooping eyelids gradually close. Her face became peaceful, and my heart yearned for my childhood when I thought that my mama was invincible. Suddenly, my wishful thinking was shattered by a hasty knock on the iron door. I turned on the computerized monitor in the room, and I saw that it was a lanky man dressed in a metallic suit with a red handkerchief in his left hand. The doctor, I thought. Nowadays, all the doctors dressed in this fashion, and nobody thought that it was unconventional anymore. Dr. Peacock strutted into the room and shoved a crinkled sheet of paper into my hands: “How to prepare for ReAnima Surgery.” My eyes widened, and my lips moved apart into an “o.”
“What does this mean?” I managed to stammer.
“Under the regulations of the United HealthCare policy, your mother must undergo ReAnima surgery. She is a threat to herself and the people around her. Surgery is scheduled in 2 hours.” He cooly replied.
I quickly skimmed through the brochure.
The brain chip, called ReAnima, is supposed to alter the patient’s brain waves after being implanted in the white matter of the brain. The doctor was supposed to drill two holes into my mother’s skull and implant two electrodes into the dense bundle of fibers within her brain’s internal capsule. The axons here carry signals to many of the brain’s circuits that have been linked to depression. Those electrodes will then be connected to two wires that run behind her ears and under her skin to her clavicle, where two battery packs just slightly larger than a matchbox are then implanted to power them. When turned on, the hope was that the electrical signals emitted by my mother’s new implants would in effect re-wire the circuits in her brain that were causing her to continually relive my father’s tragic death. It was supposed to treat her brain’s misfiring, and it can be used to treat schizophrenia, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, addiction, and severe cases of depression.
“Just sign right here.” Dr. Peacock interrupted.
I thought that the ReAnima brain chip would cure my mama, so without a second thought, I grabbed the pen on the desk beside her and quickly scribbled my name on the dotted line.
“Thank you. Please step outside while I prepare your mother for the surgery.”
“How long will it take?”
“Depends on how many chips are needed to link the broken neurological connections in her brain.”
Seeing the alarmed look on my face, he added, “Don’t worry. Everything will be all right.”
I took comfort in those words because as a child, my mama would always say them to me, and I believed her. I swiftly stood up, kissed my mother’s papery cheek, and walked out of the room, thinking that my life would return to normal again. As I sat on the bench outside the waiting room, I kept thinking about how much this surgery could change both my mother’s life and mine. I imagined her returning to work and me returning to school. I imagined her making her famous Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. I imagined her wrapping her arms around me every day before school, telling me that everything will be all right.
Sitting on the bench, my eyes eventually closed.
“Wake up, wake up, sweetie. Your mother’s surgery is complete.”
I groggily woke up from my uncomfortable position on the discolored bench. “Everything will be all right. Your mother is as cheerful as ever. Her depression has completely disappeared.”
Eyes wide, I whispered,” Where is she?”
Mrs. Robo robotically lifted her metallic arm and said in a mechanical voice, “Room #B385934.” My legs bolted as I scampered up the flights of stairs until I finally arrived at the door of my mama. Expecting to find her asleep, I was shocked to see her sitting on the white sheets of the hospital bed, watching “How I Met Your Robot.” Seeing me, she screamed and threw the remote control in my direction, barely missing my face. The doctor and several Robo nurses rushed in, telling me to wait outside until she has calmed down and was ready to see me. After waiting for nearly 4 hours, they called me back in. My mother stared at me blankly as I cautiously tip-toed in. She did not wave, and she did not smile. I sat down on the bed beside her.
“I am so happy that you are cured from your depression. Now, we can be the family that we once were.” She looked strangely at me and stoically nodded. I tried to give her a hug, but it just felt ingenuine and completely mechanical. I took her hands, trying to comfort her and myself, and that’s when I noticed that her hands were bare. She had taken off her ring, the only thing that had mattered to her since my father died. At that moment, I knew that I was looking at a stranger.
I looked into her eyes…
…her lifeless stare bore a hole in me. Even when she wrapped her worn hands around mine, they felt unfamiliar and mechanical. Even when she told me that she loved me, it sounded ingenuine and forced. My mother was gone, destroyed by the man-made creation that I thought was supposed to bring her back to life.
Her chip was controlled by a remote control like the television in our home. Without the remote control, she had no emotions. When I was accepted into Stanford, she pressed the tiny green button, inducing the euphoria hormones that caused her to giggle uncontrollably at my acceptance. When I got into a fight at my school, she pressed the red button, turning her into a raging monster that hit me several times with my brother’s baseball bat. When my grandmother passed away, my mother pushed the blue button, making her cry hysterically and keeping my grandmother’s ashes by her bedside. I wanted to believe that my mother was still there and that she truly really cared about my brothers and me. However, as the time passed, I realized that she had turned into a machine, and machines do not have emotions.
The next few years passed by in a blur. I finished college, got married, and found a job. And the ReAnima brain chip became even more popular in the United States. The chip now included rechargeable batteries that were implanted on the back of the skull. With 116 points of contact on the brain, it was said to cure the most serious of mental disorders. However, I knew that ReAnima only kept the body alive. The person inside disappears. Even when it seemed like my life was complete, I always missed that one part of me that could never be replaced: my mother. Even though she was there during my college graduation, during my marriage, and during my job promotion, I always felt uncomfortable around her because I knew that somehow, she was already gone.
Kneeling to set the snowdrop garland on her tombstone, I could almost imagine my mom still fighting against the chip implanted in her head. It was supposed to have cured all her mental disorders, but yet, she was killed by it. I could hear her reassuring me, “My love, don’t worry about me. Everything will be all right.” But for the first time in my life, I heard myself murmuring, “No, mama, everything will not be all right… I will not be all right. My life will not be all right.” At that instant, my whole life flashed before me. ReAnima, the brain chip that was supposed to be the breakthrough of the century, had killed my father and turned my mother into a cyborg. Tears uncontrollably rolled down my face as I slowly turned around to face Robot City, keeping my eyes fixed toward the uncertain future ahead.